Author: Byrne, Paula
Number Of Pages: 704
Release Date: 15-04-2021
Details: Product Description
‘Captures both Barbara and her writing so miraculously’ JILLY COOPER
Picked as a Book to Look Forward to in 2021 by the Guardian, The Times and the Observer
A Radio 4 Book of the Week, April 2021
Barbara Pym became beloved as one of the wittiest novelists of the late twentieth century, revealing the inner workings of domestic life so brilliantly that her friend Philip Larkin announced her the era’s own Jane Austen. But who was Barbara Pym and why was the life of this English writer – one of the greatest chroniclers of the human heart – so defined by rejection, both in her writing and in love?
Pym lived through extraordinary times. She attended Oxford in the thirties when women were the minority. She spent time in Nazi Germany, falling for a man who was close to Hitler. She made a career on the Home Front as a single working girl in London’s bedsit land. Through all of this, she wrote. Diaries, notes, letters, stories and more than a dozen novels – which as Byrne shows more often than not reflected the themes of Pym’s own experience: worlds of spinster sisters and academics in unrequited love, of powerful intimacies that pulled together seemingly humble lives.
Paula Byrne’s new biography is the first to make full use of Barbara Pym’s archive. Brimming with new extracts from Pym’s diaries, letters and novels, this book is a joyous introduction to a woman who was herself the very best of company.
Byrne brings Barbara Pym back to centre stage as one of the great English novelists: a generous, shrewdly perceptive writer and a brave woman, who only in the last years of her life was suddenly, resoundingly recognised for her genius.
‘Byrne’s comprehensive biography … is unlikely to be bettered … This is an elegant, incisive and sympathetic biography that deepens our understanding of Pym … Byrne succeeds admirably’Literary Review
‘Engrossing … The chapters are enticingly short, and I romped through them. Each adds a vital piece of the jigsaw, explaining the provenance of her fictional characters and building up our understanding of [her] state of mind … It’s a delight to meet her again in these pages’The Times
‘Light-hearted and lively … Byrne is an excellent literary detective, tracing acquaintances directly into the novels. The author seems to have been as fun, clever and kind as her best creations’Lucy Atkins, Sunday Times
‘Illuminating … captures the long, muddled journey of this life beautifully … Byrne sees what fun Pym was, how much she liked and was fascinated by people … and has done us a great service in exploring this very unusual personality … This, like its subject’s best books, rewards reading and re-reading’Spectator
‘Both hilarious and heartbreaking … Byrne is beautifully savvy about her subject’s fiction … as a manifesto for her genius, it is gloriously persuasive’Daily Telegraph
‘Byrne’s book is outstanding … Just like a Pym novel, this biography is warm, funny, unexpected and deeply moving’Financial Times
‘Excellent … Although Pym’s archive has already been well picked over by scholars and fans, Byrne’s book is the first to integrate its revelations into a cradle-to-grave biography’Guardian, Book of the Week
‘Barbara Pym is one of my most favourite novelists. Few other writers have given me more laughter and more pleasure. I am therefore enchanted that this biography by Paul Byrne captures both Barbara and her writing so miraculously. Best of all, it should bring hosts of new readers to enjoy her work’Jilly Cooper
About the Author
Paula Byrne is the author the bestselling biographies ‘Perdita’, ‘Mad World’, ‘The Real Jane Austen’, ‘Belle’, ‘Kick’ and ‘The Genius of Jane Austen’. She is founder and chief executive of ReLit, the Bibliotherapy Foundation, a charity devoted to the mental health benefits of reading. She is married to Sir Jonathan Bate and lives in Oxford.